Wednesday, March 11, 2009
It is hard to walk this shore without thinking of the Hurricane of 1938. Seventy years ago, the full force of that September storm hit Napatree Point, altering it's landscape severely. Thirty-nine summer homes, as well as several beach clubs were washed away, with fifteen lives lost on this narrow stretch alone. The land itself was transformed too, as Sandy Point was separated by water from Napatree and became (and remains) an island.
Napatree Point also represents the northeastern border to Long Island Sound. The glacial moraine that forms the North Fork of Long Island continues across the Sound, rising above sea level on several islands, before reaching the mainland in Watch Hill. From here I watched the open sea roll through the narrow stretch of water between Fishers Island and Napatree. The currents run strong here, although not as much as they do in the Race and Plum Gut. In the distance, several early season fisherman worked the tides of Sugar Reef Passage.
Napatree Point is managed by the Watch Hill Conservancy, and there are signs posted reminding visitors to avoid the sand dunes and nesting areas. I have read somewhere that this is a popular spot for viewing owls in the winter. I did not see any owls, but I did spot a seal sunning himself in the morning sun. In the past, I had only witnessed seals from a far distance, so it really made my morning to be able to view one close-up.
I walked the full length of the point, eventually reaching the ruins of Fort Mansfield (this will be a separate post). From here, I crossed over to the north side of the peninsula and worked my way back. North of me was the shallow waters of Little Narragansett Bay, a popular anchorage in the summer season. I took one last look at the island of Sandy Point, and tried to imagine what it looked like before 1938.
In the end, nature always wins.
Map Community Walk
YouTube: Kayak Surfing Off Napatree
Providence Journal: Napatree Point
Napatree 1938: Before & After Photo (scroll down)
New York Times: Remembering The Great Hurricane
SOUNDBOUNDER: September 21,1938